The Lewis Gallery says Goodbye, For Now

As the gallery prepares to close its doors, one more fundraiser will be held.

For years, the Lewis Gallery has been a local go-to spot for custom framing and African-American inspired art. The gallery gave the community a chance to appreciate culture and tradition.

“Growing up, I don’t remember much imagery of people of color,” said Gwen Lewis, owner of Lewis Gallery. “Then I went to school and learned about the Harlem Renaissance and the flux of African-American artists and poets. I opened this gallery wanting to be a part of a new renaissance. We’re a very talented people!”

For years, the gallery did just that-- welcomed the community inside, not only as a customer, but also as place to learn, discuss and experience art. The gallery, which just celebrated its 21st anniversary in February, will be closing its doors at the end of March.

“This has definitely been the roughest year, people just don’t have the funds to spend on art right now,” said Lewis.

Lewis, who went to school for fashion design, fell in love with manipulating paper with pen, pencil, watercolor and other mediums to create art. In the beginning, she and her husband would sell their art at flea markets on the street.

Then, one day a woman asked Lewis if she could frame some work for her. Lewis nodded enthusiastically, and from that day on immersed herself in the art behind framing. She learned her trade from other framers. In 1990, the shop opened: Their work had found a home, and Gwen had found a place to foster her talents.

“The best part sometimes is interacting with all of the different personalities,” said Lewis.
She has had the opportunity to meet the daughters of Malcolm X, politicians like Al Vann and Senator Montgomery, a handful of actors and actresses and many unsung heroes from the surrounding neighborhood of Bed-Stuy.

However, September 11th, 2001 was a real turning point; seeing that other people needed help awakened an urgency to do something herself. Over the years Lewis has helped Black Operators of McDonald's, Brooklyn Chapters of Links, Bridge Street Preparatory School, Brooklyn Chapter AKA, Brooklyn Chapter Delta’s, Urban League and NAACP to name a few.
Her most recent volunteer efforts have been with the DIVAS for Social Justice, an organization devoted to encouraging young women of color to break boundaries and become leaders in the fields of new media and information technology.

Lewis has donated time and supplies to help fundraise for the girls, but also to educate and inspire them in something she knows well: Framing. Over the summer Lewis trained the older members of DIVAS how to frame their own artwork for an upcoming exhibition.

“The girls liked the idea of seeing themselves working with tools, seeing their inner beauty and feeling confident using screw guns and hammers and nails,” said Clarisa James, one of the founders of DIVAS.

“Framing is a male dominated job that I think women can be a real asset to. Gender shouldn’t be a part of the requirement, as long as you have the drive and the passion, women can do all of the same things,” said Lewis.

“Gwen is a dynamic, kind soul. She has this great relationship with so many people; she’s such a welcoming personality. It’s easy to bond with her and she’s so encouraging; with Gwen anything is possible,” said James.

Gwen says her last legacy will be with the DIVAS on March 25th, from 6-9 pm, where she will host a fundraiser giving the DIVAS 50 percent of the proceeds from all store sales that night.

And although the store is closing, Gwen has no intentions of fading away. She plans on doing street fairs and holiday markets and will stay in contact with all of her customers via email.

“I will miss having this home away from home, but running a business is a 24/7 job, and I’m looking forward to not having to be tied down to one location.”

As Gwen Lewis enters her new phase, she plans to continue running workshops and showing young entrepreneurs the tricks of the trade.